Fear of Art, or, “I CAN’T Draw”

When I begin any of my journaling classes, I explain that we will be doing more than writing. Before I explain what it is we will do, someone will say, “This better not be about drawing. I can’t draw.” There is a lot of fear about drawing. Most people have their creative play driven out of them by fourth grade.

They are told what art is, and lessons are generally about precision and not making a mistake. Instead, art is about seeing and being. And making mistakes so you can fix them and learn to see better.

My big fear is that to be considered acceptable as a teacher, I better have a lot of “stuff.” Stamps and UTEE and templates; cutters and vinyl and foam; printed paper squares and ribbons and stamp pads in pigment and dye and chalk. But I don’t. I don’t have all that stuff. I have colored pencils and inks and some handmade papers and great drawing paper.

I believe you can make art without a lot of stuff. Art comes from within you, not through stencils, transparencies and puffy paints. I’m not saying they aren’t fun, or that creative play should be sparse. I am saying you don’t need to break the bank and become an art-product consumer to be an artist. It’s not what you own, it’s what you do with what you have.

Preternatural Breakup by Justine Ashbee, (c) 2006

Here are two great examples of what I mean. Both of these people can’t NOT make art. They stand in the flow of time and art and the work pours out of them because there is no other choice. They have their own ideas of what art is, and the only tool either one of them uses is a Sharpie pen.

Justine Ashbee uses nothing except Sharpie pens and good paper. Her flowing lines and subtle use of color are incredibly beautiful art. She does it freehand. It comes from within her. It’s the flow of art. You couldn’t stop her creative work because it makes meaning. It doesn’t need to be supported with a million products.

Charlie Kratzer, the other artist, does a totally different kind of work. He decorated his entire basement with a black Sharpie. OK, it was more than one. It was $10 worth. The rest was his creativity, his ideas, his desire to decorate his life.

Kratzer is a lawyer, and started with one line in the basement–a line that began a mural around his basement wall. The mural is not just furniture and columns and wainscoting, although it is all that.

The art spans literature and popular culture, Picasso and Churchill. I could list all the things on the wall, but there is a wonderful video and article that does a much better job.

Being creative is not about owning stuff, buying stuff, or having a fabulous studio to store the stuff. Right now there it’s popular to have artists’ studios in magazines, along with descriptions about how this big, airy, wonderful space is exactly what every artist needs. Yes, it’s nice to have lots of space and storage, but thinking you need 150 square feet with special furniture before you can create is the same as thinking you aren’t an artist until you have six shelves of stuff. Creativity is making meaning in your life. Anyway you can. No excuses. Get busy doing one thing that you love. It’s fine if you think you can’t. Just get into the studio and start. The rest will wash over you and sweep you away in art.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who helps people discover they can make meaning in many ways. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

3 thoughts on “Fear of Art, or, “I CAN’T Draw”

  1. Wow. Just wow. Knowing Sharpies, I’d be terrified to pick out a wall and go for this myself. I’m willing to make mistakes with a pencil, though! 😉 I guess I’m still caught up in all of that.

    —I gotta say, when I first saw it, my very first thought was, “I sure as hell hope he did it in pencil first!” -Q

  2. The work of Justine Ashbee is really amazing, I can’t keep my eyes of her work. Would love to have some of her work in my house.

  3. What a perfect decorating masterpiece in that basement. Even with stairways that go nowhere and Sharpie logs in the fireplace! Very clever, that guy and his magic markers.

    And as for needing the perfect studio filled with every imaginable art product. I once went there. Bought into the idea of a perfect studio space. Now I find the room so overwhelming and claustrophobic, I don’t even open the door.

    I’m thinking of donating almost all the stuff to a after school program and setting up a big table. Just keeping a few basic, good quality art supplies for my use. Hoping that will inspire me to begin creating in that space again, since soon I won’t be able to do all my art outside.

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